Dragons second row Ben Carter played every minute of every game in his first U20 Six Nations campaign earlier this year, instantly proving that he is an integral part of Wales U20 head coach Gareth Williams’ game plan and is a real rising star in the Dragons ranks.
The 19-year-old has represented Wales at Under 16, U18 and U19 level and has previously captained the U18 and U19 teams respectively. Standing at 6ft 6in and 18st 4lbs, Carter has shown to be a natural born leader on the pitch despite appearing quietly spoken and unassuming off it.
He started the 2020 U20 Six Nations campaign in North Wales against Italy and seamlessly looked accustomed to his first look at a new age grade.
Despite the 7-17 loss to the Italians, Carter was one of five players to make over 20 tackles in the game and alongside No.8 Morgan Strong entered the record books after making 29 successful tackles each. Not since 2016 when current Ireland international James Ryan tackled himself to a standstill against Scotland, has that figure been achieved.
Even then, Carter played down his own impact: “I didn’t realise it at the time that there were so many [tackles]. It was just the way Italy were playing that allowed five of us to have 25 plus tackles. I didn’t even know about the record until it was pointed out – but if they are going to run at you, you are going to tackle them.”
Wales U20 head coach Gareth Williams was impressed with Carter’s workrate during the campaign and believes the Dragons may have a real star rising through their ranks.
"We enjoyed watching Ben’s progress with the U18’s in 2018/2019. Between seeing him up close in training, watching him in matches, getting the opinion of our experienced U18 coaches Chris Horsman and Geraint Lewis, we were aware we had a strong second row candidate coming through for this season,’ says Williams.
“Within our environment, he demonstrated a high level of performance and his work in the tight was overlooked publicly, despite it playing a huge part in our progression through the competition. He would carry dynamically, do a lot of unseen work in defence, and his robustness in playing every minute of every match was impressive.
“We are excited in Ben’s potential, as we are with numerous players, and we are looking forward to working with the Dragons in moving his development forward again next season.”
Currently in lockdown at home near Caldicot, Carter is trying to make the best of a bad situation.
“I try and make do with what we’ve got in the house. I’ve got a few resistance bands tied to trees and things like that making do with what we have got. It could be a lot worse, we’re lucky we’ve got a house we’re comfortable in,” he says.
Carter, who captained the Dragons Under 18s to the WRU Regional Age Grade Championship title last season, is now eager to return to training with the resurgent Dragons where Director of Rugby Dean Ryan has put a welcoming arm around the younger brigade.
“Since the beginning of the season I’ve seen a lot of the seniors and it helps Dean has shown a lot of interest in developing the younger guys so it’s a great place for us to be in because that is what we want to do. We want to develop and push through towards that senior team,” says Carter.
Carter figured in the Dragons’ Celtic Cup campaign under the tutelage of former England No.8 Luke Narraway and Sam Hobbs and enjoyed the experience.
“I played in three games, came off bench in two and started against Ospreys,” he recalls. “Luke Narraway has been brilliant, especially in the line-out for me, it’s one of the things I am working on at the moment, calling the lineout and tactically and technically and he’s been great for that.
“We quite often have little conversations as I’m passing him in the building and Hobbsy as well – right through from the U18s I’ve been close with him and things have worked well so far.
“Physically from the 18s, it’s been a big jump but it’s been great for my learning being with players who have played in the PRO14, I think they have been great mentors.
“Prior to the lockdown, I’ve been in a few of the unit sessions on a Tuesday, the players there are great and they help me out and they are invested in the academy at the Dragons and it’s a great place for us younger guys to be, great for our development and I’m looking forward towards the future.”
Alongside Carter, there were a number of Dragons in the Wales U20 squad including Ed Scragg, Aneurin Owen, Dafydd Buckland and Will Griffiths among others to suggest the Dragons have plenty of talent coming through to bolster the senior squad in the very near future.
“We’re a close group and it shows the talent we have here, and that can only mean good things going forward,” predicts Carter.
In the meantime, Carter is doing what the rest of us are doing in these trying times and making the best of an unusual situation and looking forward to the day he can return to the training pitch alongside his Dragons teammates.
“I think it will take a bit of time but by then we’ll be so keen to get back into it that it will be quite quick fitness and conditioning wise – everyone will be willing to get back to normal I’m sure. Next year’s junior World Cup is an end goal but ultimately if I enjoy my time and am having fun playing rugby then I’m happy – that’s the main thing for me.”
Carter looks back on Wales’ U20 Six Nations campaign with mixed emotions, which Wales ended with two victories and three defeats.
“It was quite physically demanding, I was quite sore by the end of it but I was very glad and appreciated the game time I was given and that I was trusted in that role,” says the Sussex-born second row.
“I learned a lot, it was a good step up, it’s the best sort of learning environment to be in – when you are a bit out of your comfort zone you have to learn to thrive. I enjoyed it, there was a good group of boys to be in with. We had good moments, bad moments but overall I look back on it positively.
“I just wanted to enjoy my time really, obviously I would like to start in all of the games but I wouldn’t have been massively disappointed if I didn’t because the second rows in the group are very good and I respect them all. I was grateful to get the game time that I did.”